Commentary by Terry Anker
College towns win big. The local economy benefits from the higher-than-average per capita spending of students (and their benefactors – parents and taxpayers). Small-town communities that host significant campuses have seen property values and incomes surge even as peer cities without the industrial locus of higher-ed have almost universally stumbled. Moreover, these places tend to see increased levels of education attainment. As the adage goes, folks are being taught to fish rather than being given a fish. The long-term civic advantage of a well-educated population is thoroughly documented and acknowledged.
Indiana State Sen. Luke Kenley has offered a budget amendment to include capital investments into the campuses of Ivy Tech Community College to the tune of $40.2 million for Kokomo and $38.7 million for Muncie. Although not part of our own central Indiana region, it can only serve our larger community. The Kokomo facility was decimated by a tornado this past August and has been limping along since. Were it not for the Herculean effort made by students and staff, no learning would be occurring. As to Muncie, it, like all good things, has been a victim of its own success – and time. Over the years, the old dame has valiantly educated countless legions of Hoosiers, rarely asking for more than a cleaning. Now, repairs and improvements cannot wait.
If Kenley has earned a reputation for anything, it is frugality. Good. But his leadership here is fully merited. Thousands of high-paying Indiana jobs go unfilled because Hoosiers cannot access the instruction required to meet demand. Investment in Ivy Tech will reap benefits far in excess of the expense for many years to come. Although there are numerous demands on taxpayers, investments in infrastructure, education and other areas that teach people to fish (help good folk find a path to self-sufficiency) makes sense. Let’s plan the fish fry.